Country French Wine Server

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This article is from Issue 30 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Create old-world charm with a few weekends' worth of work.

There’s something about a glass of fine wine that evokes visions of France. So when I was asked to design a server to store 24 bottles, my decision to create a piece that resembled a well-loved French antique was a no-brainer. As you’ll see, this piece combines form and function. Featuring special moldings for storing glasses and a drawer for wine-related accessories, this server is sure to be a hit with the wine connoisseurs in your social life.

Beginning woodworkers will appreciate the straightforward construction process. Despite its appearance, you can easily build this piece using plywood and solid stock available in most home centers. The rustic hardware, carved feet, and grape onlays are only a phone call away. 

Once you build the server, try a surprisingly easy finishing technique that adds years of character with just a brush. (See “4-Step Antique Finish,” page 39.)

Note: See the Convenience-Plus Buying Guide on page 38 for a list of materials and supplies.

Start with the sides

1 Using your table saw, cut the side stiles (A), top rails (B), and bottom rails (C) to the sizes in the Cut List. 

2 Draw a centerline on the end of a rail from edge to edge. Now, adjust the height of a combination blade in your table saw to 1/2" and set the fence so that the blade cuts less than 1/8" off from the centerline. Using scrap of the same thickness, make a pass with one face against the fence, rotate the stock, and make a second pass with the opposite face against the fence. Test the resulting groove’s fit with the plywood material for side panels (D). Adjust the fence if needed for a snug fit, and then groove the inside frame edges of the side stiles (A) and rails (B, C) to house side panels (D).

3 Outfit your table saw with a dado set to cut the 1/2"-long stub tenons on the rails (B, C) where shown in Figure 1. Add a sacrificial fence to your rip fence and bury the unused portion of the dado set. Add an auxiliary fence to your miter gauge. Again, using scrap of the same thickness placed face down, sneak up on the tenon cuts and test-fit the tenon in a stile groove to check the setting. Now, cut the rail tenons.

4 Cut the 1/4" plywood side panels (D) to the size in the Cut List.

5 Arrange the side stiles (A), rails (B, C), and panels (D) on an assembly table. Brush glue onto the tenons and into the stile grooves. Clamp the side assemblies together and check for square.

6 Using a dado set in the table saw, adjust the dado height to 1/2" and cut a 1/4"-wide rabbet along the back inside edge of each side panel where shown in Figure 1.

Make the top frame and shelves

1 Cut the top frame front rail (E), back rail (F), and side rails (G) to the dimensions in the Cut List. Mark the centerlines on parts E, F, G for the biscuit slots. Cut the slots and glue up the frame. When dry, drill and countersink screw holes to attach it to the top (M). Slot the center holes and those in the top front rail for expansion and contraction with  3/16" slots.

2 Cut three plywood panels to size for the shelves (H).

3 Using the table saw and dado set, cut the centered 1/2" wide × 1/4" deep dadoes in the bottom face of the middle shelf (H) and top face of the bottom shelf (H), where shown in Figure 1. (These dadoes will be used later to house the vertical divider [CC] in the two lower shelves.)

4 Cut the biscuit slots into the shelves and top frame.

5 Make the mid-shelf edges (I), the bottom shelf edge (J), and the mid-shelf filler strips (K). Install the edges and filler strips onto the shelves, where shown in Figure 1, using glue and brads. 

Join and assemble the case

1 Place the sides face to face and mark the biscuit locations where shown in Figure 1. Use these locations as references when marking the ends of the top frame and shelves. Cut the marked biscuit slots. 

2 Assemble the case in sections by first gluing and clamping the top frame and bottom shelf to one side (A, B, C, and D). Check for square and allow the subassembly time to dry. Now, biscuit-glue the mid-shelves in place. Let dry, and glue and clamp the second side in place. Again, check for square.

3 After giving the glue time to cure, miter and install the base molding (L) on the bottom of the cabinet with glue and 1"-long 18-gauge brads. I used 13/8" Colonial stop molding from my home center, ripped to the width listed in the Cut List. (Note: if you want to make your own, Freud’s reversible wainscoting router bit creates a reasonable facsimile.)

Construct the top

1 Cut the top boards (M) slightly oversized, joint the edges, and edge-glue them. Once the glue dries, trim the top to the final size in the Cut List. Now using a handheld router and Roman ogee bit, rout the molded edge profile on the front and side edges. 

2 Cut the backsplash (N) and side splashes (O) to length. Using a table saw with a  dado set, cut the ¼" deep × 1/2"-wide rabbet on the side splashes.

3 Make a copy of the profile on page 38 and adhere it to the front end face of one side splash. Bond the side splashes (O) together with double-faced tape. Now bandsaw the profile to shape. Clean up saw marks with an oscillating spindle sander or files. 

4 Glue and clamp the backsplashes and side splashes together. When dry, reinforce each corner joint with three 1"-long 18-gauge brads. 

5 Drill the screw holes for the splash assembly (N/O) in the top. Countersink the underside. Clamp the assembly to the top and drill pilot holes for the screws. Slot 

the center holes and the holes at the front of the assembly to allow for expansion and contraction of the top. Now, attach the assembly to the top with nine #6 × 11/4" flathead wood screws.

6 Attach the top assembly to the cabinet with eight #6 × 1¼" flathead wood screws—use three screws in the pilot holes in part F, three in the slots in part E, and two in the slots in parts G.

Secure the molding using glue, clamps, and a few 1"-long 18-gauge brads to add depth to a simple box.

Make the drawer

1 Cut the drawer front (P) to the size in the Cut List and drill the holes for the 11/2" brass drawer knobs where shown.

2 Cut the drawer sides (Q) and drawer back (R) to size.

3 Cut the drawer bottom groove on the drawer front and sides on the table saw in two passes with a standard 1/8" blade to get a snug fit for the plywood.

4 Using the two outer blades from a dado set, cut the lock-rabbet joints on the drawer front and sides as shown in Figure 2 detail. Cut the dadoes in the rear of the drawer sides, and cut the rabbets on the ends of the drawer back.

5 Apply glue and clamp the drawer assembly together.

6 Cut the drawer bottom (S) to size and install. Secure with brads through the bottom and into the edge of the drawer back (R).

7 Miter and install the drawer front molding (T) with glue and brads as shown in Photo A. (Again, I used Colonial stop molding, or you can make your own using a wainscoting bit.) 

8 Make the drawer runners (U) and glue them in place in the top face of the upper mid-shelf, along the side. Flush the runners with the drawer edging (I) where shown in Figure 1.

Form the wineglass moldings

1 Cut wineglass molding strips (V, W) to the sizes in the Cut List.

2 Using your table saw, angle the blade at 15° and raise it 1" (refer to Figure 3, above). Next, adjust the fence, so your cut starts ¼" in from the outside face (if your blade tilts away from the fence, adjust accordingly). Make the first cut, then flip the stock end for end and make the second cut as shown in Photo B. Note that the outer wineglass moldings (V) are cut on only one side.

3 Now return the saw blade to  90° and adjust the blade for a 1/4"-deep cut. Adjust the fence, so the waste piece is on the outside of the cut as shown in Photo C. 

4 Drill and then countersink three evenly-spaced mounting holes in each molding piece on the drill press. I used a fence and a stopblock on my drill-press table to make the repetitive holes.

5 The wineglass moldings also serve as a stop for the drop front, so a reference line should be scribed on the inside front edge of the top shelf to aid in placement of the moldings.

6 Install the two outer wineglass moldings (V). Next make seven 11/4"-wide spacers from scrapwood about 12" long. Position a spacer between each inner wineglass molding piece (W) and install with #6 × 11/4" flathead wood screws as shown in Photo D.

Position a featherboard above the cut to keep the stock from tipping or binding on the blade.

Put pressure in the center of the molding to prevent tipping when removing the waste.

Use spacers made from scrap to keep the moldings in place and make installation fast and foolproof.

When drilling the centers, raise the bit frequently to remove the chips and keep the bit running cool. 

Use a rubber roller to apply a thin coat of glue to the back of the onlay.

Install the feet

1 With the case upside down, make and install the foot support blocks (X, Y). Mark the centered hole locations. Use a 7/32" drill bit and drill four holes 1" deep in the case.

2 Locate the centers of the feet and drill a 7/32" hole 11/2" deep as shown in Photo E.

3 To install the dowel screws, I clamped them in a metalworking vise with aluminum jaws, applied some wax to the threads, and screwed on the feet.

4 Apply glue to the foot support blocks and screw the feet in place.

Make the drop front

1 Cut a 3/4  × 3/4  × 80" length of stock for the front edging pieces (Z, AA).

2 Cut the 3/4" plywood drop front panel (BB) to size.

3 Miter-cut the edging pieces (Z, AA) to fit the panel (BB). Next, cut the biscuit slots in the parts where shown in Figure 1. Using biscuits, glue and clamp the drop-front assembly together.

4 Miter-cut and install the molding (T) onto the face of the drop front with glue and brads.

5 Using sandpaper or a block plane, establish a small bevel along the top back edge of the drop front where shown in Figure 1, so it will clear the edge of the top shelf when the door is closed .

6 Position the grape onlays on the drop front and mark the location. Center them on the panel. Next, apply glue to a piece of waxed paper and roll it out to a thin film with a hard rubber roller. When the roller is uniformly covered with glue, apply glue to the back of the onlays as shown in Photo F and put them in position on the lid. Secure the onlays with a few 23-gauge pins, 3/4" long.

7 Drill the hole for the pull and install it. Next, install the hinges with one screw in the slotted holes, making sure the drop front is centered and closes easily. A Vix bit works well to keep these holes centered. You may have to increase the back bevel at the top of the drop front to allow the drop front to close properly. Once you’re satisfied, drill the remaining hinge screw holes and insert the screws. Finally, install the magnetic catch.

8 To help brace the drop front while installing the metal supports, I clamped 3D squares to the case as shown in Photo G.

9 Make a mark 2" down from the bottom of the wineglass molding and 1/2" in from the back of the drop front to locate the interior position of the screws for the supports. Drill a pilot hole and install the supports to the interior of the case. (Note that the screws included with the supports may be too long. If that’s the case, use shorter screws.) Lock the supports, locate their position, drill pilot holes, and install the screws.

Support the drop front securely when installing the drop-leaf support hardware.

Attach stopblocks to the crosscut sled’s fence to turn it into an accurate dado maker. Then make the cuts, sliding the panel from stop to stop. 

Machine and assemble bottle dividers

1 Using the table saw, cut the vertical divider (CC) to size as listed in the Cut List. Make and install the solid oak edging (DD) with glue and brads.

2 Cut the notches to fit on the top and bottom at the front of the vertical divider (DD) to allow the divider edging to be flush with the shelf edging. Glue the vertical divider in place.

3 Cut the components that make up the “X”-shaped bottle dividers (EE, FF, GG, HH) to rough size. 

4 Set your table saw blade at a 45° angle and cut the opposing ends of  divider (GG) to length.

5 Cut the 1/8"-deep dadoes in part GG. I used my table saw sled and a standard combination blade with stopblocks as shown in Photo H to cut the dadoes. 

6 Cut the short dividers (HH) to size and check the fit. Attach the long bottle divider edging (EE) and the short bottle divider edging (FF) with glue and brads.

7 Brush glue in the dadoes on the long dividers and install the short dividers. To hold the dividers together while the glue dries, slide the assemblies into the case from the back.

8 Referring not only to the dimensions in the Cut List but also to the actual dimensions of your server, cut the back (II) to fit.

Finish and final assembly

1 Remove the drop front, the bottle dividers, and all other hardware.

2 Fill all nail holes and do the final sanding up to 220 grit. Make sure to soften all sharp edges.

3 Apply the finish of your choice. Finish the back and bottle dividers before installing in the case.

4 Now, insert the bottle dividers, install the back (II) using 18-gauge brads 3/4" long or #6 × 1" flathead wood screws.

5 Reinstall the hardware and let the compliments flow like good vintage wine.

About Our Designer/Builder

Craig Bentzley has been restoring antiques and building furniture for nearly 40 years. He favors 18th century American furniture but is willing to cross the pond for the right project. In addition to writing, Craig also teaches at guilds, woodworking shows, and at Woodcraft stores.


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